All about inflammation and anti-inflammatory lifestyle (Part 1)

inflammation

Over the course of evolution, our bodies developed some fantastically complex and truly amazing defense mechanisms.  Jointly, they keep us safe and alive, protecting us from foreign bacterial and viral invasions, ensuring tissue regeneration and healing, cleaning up cellular metabolic debris and deactivating and destroying malfunctioning cells to limit the damage that they can inflict on surrounding tissues.

Many times, however, the same processes that are supposed to protect our bodies from harm cause greater harm when allowed to progress unchecked.  For instance, cholesterol patches originally deployed to limit the damage from vascular lesions may lead to dangerous plaque formations that elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Free radicals, the generation of which is a part of normal ATP production in mitochondria wreak havoc in large amounts – to a point of causing DNA damage. Our immune system, designed to combat foreign microbes and irritants and keep us safe, can go out of control and cause a whole range of dysfunctions – from benign allergies to serious auto-immune disorders like lupus or arthritis, when it loses the ability to differentiate between foreign invaders and host tissues.

This article will discuss yet another biological process that is a part of your innate immune system and is intended to protect you from harm, but often gets out of control and creates the opposite effect.

We are, of course, talking about inflammation.

You probably hear about it quite often – most likely in the negative context.  From doctors prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs, many popular websites talking about anti-inflammatory foods and diets, etc. – but just as in many other cases, most of these measures are trying to fight the symptom, rather than the root cause.

What exactly is inflammation and should you really fear it or fight it?  What causes it and what effects does it have on your body?  What should you do to control it and how can you minimize any negative effects?

Continue reading to find out!

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Compound Exercises vs Isolation: How to Make the Right Choice

Compound exercises vs isolation

Here is one of the biggest questions around physical activity that pops up every now and then: should you stick to compound exercises or isolation exercises as a part of your training schedule?  Is one better than the other?  If compound lifts are so good  – how come there are so many gyms that offer a huge variety of expensive machines targeting specific muscles?

The truth is – both methods can be used to improve strength.  Both methods can be used to build a better body.  But there are scenarios where one would work better than the other.

Instead of taking sides, in this article we will explore advantages and disadvantages of both compound and isolation exercise and then try to boil everything down to a simple routine that utilizes the best elements from both camps.

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Weight training for kids – best workout or a way to stunt growth?

weight training for kids

We have previously seen how unsubstantiated fears kept most women away from weights for many decades because someone, somewhere took a liberty of defining women as overly fragile, helpless beings that were unable (and unwilling) to ever lift more than the weight of their purses.  (Of course, producers of 0.5lb barbells missed the fact that just to be prepared for the challenges of everyday life, women would need to lift, push, squat and carry much higher weights – like their own babies).

In any case, hopefully, you realize by now that when we compare males and females – there are more similarities than differences in metabolic pathways, muscular function and useful methods to achieve athletic and health goals.  So this limiting belief does females a great disservice.

But a similar ill advice and unsubstantiated fears are now defining our attitudes towards weight training for kids.  Most parents still have many reservations when it comes to weight training for kids – because they have heard, at some point, that lifting weights stunts growth (and that lifting free weights causes injuries, generally speaking).

How much of it is true?  Does weight lifting stunt grown in children, as many people believe?  Are there benefits of weight training as a part of structured exercise early in life? And, if you are a parent – what should you know about your child’s training protocols?

Let’s try to take a closer look.

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How to live longer, slow down aging and feel awesome

Slow down agina

I often look at pictures of some people I grew up or went to school with and get scared.

Because, looking at me from the screen, are weathered, aged, overweight and tired individuals who look way beyond their biological age – and I know it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s true that none of us is getting younger with time.  Whether you like it or not – aging is an inevitable and natural biological process that affects every single living creature.  And although there seems to be some break-through in the field of anti-aging technologies – at this point you cannot reverse aging or stop aging completely.

What you can control, however, is how quickly you age and the quality of life you enjoy as you get older.  You can absolutely extend the span of your younger years and continue to look, feel and perform your best way beyond your 50s and 60s.  You can absolutely extend your life expectancy by eliminating bad habits and introducing good ones.  And the best part is – It’s not that complicated.

If you ask yourself what aging is – you will probably narrow this generic term down to a few indicators – wrinkles, forgetfulness, grey hair, limited mobility and a plethora of diseases.  But all of those are just visual and/or subjective manifestations and symptoms – not the root cause.

Nobody dies of just “old age”.  The majority succumb to disease “common” for and associated with old age – because their weakened bodies lose the ability to fight it off.

Your genetic potential probably allows you to live up to 120 and even beyond (the oldest documented age is 123).  But the average life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization does not exceed 73, with the highest being around 83 (generally, women live longer than men) – and in some countries life expectancy currently much less.

Why such a huge discrepancy?  Because the way you age – and your life expectancy – has little to do with your genetic potential and a lot to do with epigenetic external factors, as most recent studies confirm.  Your bad (or good) habits, diet, environment, activity and stress directly affect which genes get expressed or supressed – so, over the course of your life, cell-activity regulators get added to or removed from genes, dialing their activities up or down. As these changes accumulate, our muscles weaken, our minds slow down and we become more vulnerable to diseases.

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Working out but not losing weight? Here is how to avoid the biggest 10 gym training mistakes

Working out but not losing weight

If you are working out but not losing weight – it’s likely not because your genetics are, somehow, unique.  It’s more likely that you are making one or several of the biggest 10 gym training mistakes.

It’s true that you can lose weight without exercise – but, just as well, you can exercise and not lose weight.  So your training needs to be approached and planned the right way to properly complement your diet.  And it really isn’t rocket science or anything that requires some enormous willpower or anything else out of the ordinary.  The rules of the game are simple – and avoiding the 10 gym training mistakes below is even simpler if you take some time to identify them.

This is a complete waste of time – exercise should be structured and help you reach a specific goal.  Depending on that goal, the specifics may vary, but there at least should be a training protocol.  Of course, you can (and should) still engage in unstructured physical activity for fun (outdoor team games, hiking, climbing, swimming, etc.), but if you are going to the gym to meet a specific goal, make sure you do everything right to reach it.

Properly structured exercise has several benefits:

  1. You eliminate unnecessary time-wasters and reduce your gym time to the minimum, while getting more results;
  2. You actually reach your goals (and faster, too!) – whether those are to lose weight, gain strength or get ripped;
  3. And, as an added benefit, you do both while ensuring maximum safety – which, in turn, ensures consistent progress with no sudden throw backs and loss of traction due to unexpected injury.

So let’s discuss how to exercise properly by looking at the following 10 gym training mistakes people make in the gym that you can easily avoid.

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No exercise time? No problem! (Or how often should you really work out)

No exercise time

Recently, due to the change in circumstances surrounding my work, I’m left with virtually no exercise time.

Yet, being in my 40s, my goals to remain strong, mobile and well-built are as ambitious as ever.  So, instead of using this as an excuse not to do anything, I had to find a way to make it work – and yes, there is always a way you can make it work.

For people who bet everything on spending countless hours in the gym, having their gym time cut almost in half is a disaster.  But you probably know by now that the effectiveness of an exercise session is only loosely correlated with its length.  As with many things in life – you have to find the “minimum effective dose” to get the most results with minimum effort.

So, is it possible to reduce exercise time and get better results?  It all depends on your starting point.  Perhaps your exercise routine is so perfectly optimized that there really isn’t room for further optimization.  If that’s the case – you probably aren’t spending too much time on it anyway, so fitting it into your busy schedule shouldn’t be an issue.

Most people, however, have the opposite problem.  They spend too much time exercising and then have trouble finding an appropriate time window during the day to slot their session in.  As a result – training sessions frequently get missed altogether.  For those of you who have this problem – there is a solution. Listed below is my personal approach to a shorter exercise time challenge.

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Why you cannot lose weight

cannot lose weight

Let me start with some bad news – you cannot lose weight by following most of today’s conventional advice around what makes the best exercise to lose weight.

Most exercise tips to lose weight these days focus on aerobics (often referred to as “cardio”) as the best way to tackle the problem.  They suggest that you should try walking to lose weight, endless running or any combination of demanding fitness activities that will have you sweating buckets and panting like a dog on a hot day.

The reality, however, is that – despite following that advice and engaging into endless jogging, elliptical machine training, Zumba and other “fun” activities – the majority of people cannot lose weight and keep it off.  You too might have tried some semi-esoteric “fat burning exercises” found in many glossy magazines or sweating buckets trying various DVD aerobic workouts – all to no avail.  But that’s not your fault – what you have been told so far might have all been very wrong – the reason why you cannot lose weight is because the best exercise to lose weight is not aerobic training.  This article will explain why – and will also teach you how to spend significantly LESS time exercising and get MORE results.

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5/3/1 strength program: how to get consistent results

5/3/1 strength training

In this article, we will explore the 5/3/1 training program.

Strength training is almost an art.  Sure, you can pick up heavy weight in any shape or form and move it around – and (because moving any weight requires muscle power and repetitive heavy weight training leads to adaptation that makes any muscle stronger) you will, no doubt, get some results.  Those results may be especially impressive if you are just starting out – at that point you may not even care much about how structured your exercise is.

But, remember – we are not after just any gains at any cost.  We are after the best possible gains we can get using the least amount of effort and time in the safest way possible.  Inevitably, then, after most people settle on which specific exercises to do – they start wondering how exactly to structure their training sessions.  The number of sets, reps and weight increments are all very important variables that serve a specific purpose.  They are somewhat interdependent, but finding the right equilibrium for your specific goals is key to making sure you keep improving.

This is why you might want to follow tried and true protocols created by people who understand how tweaking each of the variables influences your results.  You, on the other hand, do not necessarily need to understand why or how they work – you just need to find an effective protocol and apply it to your training.

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What to bring to the gym: 10 gym bag essentials for better exercise

10 gym bag essentials

As a gym-goer, you may worry about many things – what to wear to the gym, whether it’s easier to exercise at home, how to stay motivated.  etc.  But if one of your dilemmas is what to bring to the gym – with our list of 10 gym bag essentials below you can now have one less thing to worry about.

With so many gyms offering so much equipment and additional services – why would you ever bring anything other than a change of clothes?  Well, the items listed below – despite their affordability and usefulness – are typically not offered widely at commercial gyms, although there may be some exceptions.  Some personal trainers may have and use a few of these with their clients, but if you do not have a personal trainer – you may be out of luck.  Most of the time any of these 10 gym bag essentials – because they are small, personal items – have to be purchased by you.  The good thing is that they are easy to get from your local sporting goods store or online – and relatively inexpensive.

These 10 gym bag essentials are not absolutely crucial for getting results.  You can go your entire life without them and still progress notably.  If you ask me, however, rather than worry about color-coordinated trendy clothes or some latest fitness shoes (most of the time these are useless for serious lifting anyway), or worse – what expensive wireless headphones you show off while you exercise – I would rather worry about these basics, as they can significantly improve your experience and give you that slight edge.

Keep these items in your gym bag all the time – and you will always be ready for the best workout.

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How to get back in shape: the ultra-simple diet and exercise plan

how to get back in shape

“I have never exercised in my life – how do I start?” – this is the question a lot of people ask when what they see in the mirror becomes unflattering and they start wondering how to get back in shape.

We all know – life happens.  You grow older, get married, have kids, get a desk job, settle down, and get busier with life, but less physically active, nevertheless.  You quickly grab whatever food is convenient and quick as opposed to what is good.

Modern technology makes basic tasks that previously required active participation (like shopping for anything you can imagine) possible with a tap on the screen of your smart device.  Machines removed the need for physical labor.  Social media often serves as a substitute for outdoor activities where you might meet (and play with) real people face to face.  Figuring out how to get back in shape (and stay in shape) under these circumstances may be difficult.

Even if you were fit at some point as a teenager, the question of how to get back in shape becomes more and more relevant as you grow older.  Current statistics, highlighting sedentary lifestyles and less than stellar dietary habits, are not very reassuring – more than 80% of adults in the US do not meet physical activity guidelines.  More than one third of US kids – who often carry their habits into adulthood – are getting a significant proportion of daily nutrition from fast food.  In Canada only 17% of men and 14% of women engage in the recommended amount of physical activity and about 69% of Canadian adults are sedentary. Europe is not far behind – 6 in every 10 adults above 15 years of age rarely or never engage in any sport and more than 50% never engage in any physical activity, with the trend going down, not up. European Commission reports that 52% of European adults are overweight or obese – mostly as a result of the same bad dietary habits.

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